Quaker Universalist Conversations

Sufism, Quakerism, and Universalism

John Marsh reminds us of the mystical connection between Sufism, Quakerism and Universalism—a subject I am exploring in a new book, “Becoming a Friend of God” ( http://laquaker.blogspot.com/2010/11/becoming-friend-of-god-path-of-sufism.html). John shares with us this beautiful poem by Rumi along with reflections on Silence.  As the great Sufi teacher Baha Ad-din Naqshband once observed, “God is silence and is most easily reached in silence.”—Anthony Manousos

Only Breath
Rumi (Coleman Barks translation)


Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu
Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or in the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.

Within Silence below stories, below emotion, below even concepts, the world opens up to include everything held in forgiveness and love. It can’t be taught, only pointed to. It must be experienced directly. It comes when the conditions are right as a matter of grace and more than grace, of alchemy and personal transformation in which the universal is seeing through you, just you in all your particularity. It changes everything, leaving room for virtues to arise without effort, because of what’s needed in the moment, and action thusly. The early Friends (who were startlingly awake) knew this intimately; today we are lost in words as if these familiars are a sufficient explanation of the world. There is a deeper calling to return home. The student asks “What is Buddha?” The master responds “Great intimacy!” This is what’s meant by rediscovering Friends in the time of the founding, at least to me. May we all be intimate with the universe in its oneness and in its particularity, which are one and the same, and act accordingly from where we are truly home.

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